Mr Bhutto with Air Marshal Rahim Khan Plaza de Espana is the throbbing heart of Madrid that is graced by larger than life statue of legendary hero, Don Quixote, holding a lance and his companion Sancho Panza, riding a donkey. It was my first night in Madrid as Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) manager when I was rudely woken up by a commotion in Plaza de Espana, next to my hotel. I could see a large crowd of people from my hotel window shouting, hauling and jumping around. It was quiet scary for a first time visitor to an unknown country. I contacted the duty manager at the hotel’s front office but got little information, about the noisy crowd, as he only spoke Spanish. To my relief, I learnt later that the Spaniards, who still use mid-day siesta, enjoyed late night outings. Most of the quality restaurants opened their doors, 10 at night and remained open till vie hours of the day. Same was true of night clubs, bars and cafes and as such early to bed and early to rise was not valid in Spain. Air Marshal Nur Khan & family PIA head office had given me a transfer letter, Power of Attorney and six months period to establish an off-line office in Spain. PIA’s regional director based in Rome, assigned Mr Romano Ambrogi, an Italian officer, to accompany me to Madrid. We both went to Iberia’s head office for guidance and help. Iberia, the national carrier of Spain, was General Sales Agent of PIA in Spain and their support was absolutely essential in hiring staff and renting office space. Although Pakistani passport holders, at that time, did not require Spanish visa but I surely needed a work permit. Spain then was a very easy country and a lot of red-tape could be cut by using Pakistani formula. The statutes of UNWTO were adopted in Madrid on 27th September, 1970, considered as the milestone in global tourism. Our delegation, though small, was held in high esteem because Pakistan, in the 70s, was front-runner in tourism in Asia We were able to get our office in Torre de Madrid overlooking Plaza de Espana. Almost all the foreign airlines had their offices in or around Torre de Madrid and Plaza de Espana. Initially, it was hard for me to go around in an unfamiliar city, without knowing the local language and the people. Air India had its office in the same tower where I met MsGulrukh, a Parsi girl from Bombay. She introduced me to a whole lot of Spanish and Latin American crowd, working in different airlines and hotels. It was in the same crowd that, surprisingly, I met Kausar, the only Pakistani girl living in Madrid. Kausar got married to a Spanish boy, who was part of a band that played at Hotel Intercontinental Karachi. She was the daughter of celebrated film director Mr Zia Sarhadi and sister of actor Khyam Sarhadi. I knew the family well, when they lived in Lahore, near Main Gulberg Market. At the Pakistan Embassy I met our Ambassador, Air Marshal Rahim Khan, First Secretary Mr Parvaiz Quraishi and Cultural Attache Ms Sherin Safdar. It was the Spanish and the Latin Americans that I found very friendly and welcoming. In fact the Spanish turned out to be more close to my nature as they are considered the Punjabis of Europe. Slowly, I was meeting people, settling in and also picking a few necessary words of Spanish. In May 1975, the First General Assembly of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) was held at Palacio de Congresos in Madrid. I was fortunate to be member of Pakistani delegation that was headed by Mr Roedad Khan, the then Federal Secretary Tourism. Mr. Khan was elected as the Vice President of the General Assembly. Our delegation, though small, was held in high esteem because Pakistan, in the 70s, was front-runner in tourism in Asia. Mexico City and Madrid were competing to be elected as the Headquarters of the World Tourism Organisation. PIA’s Jumbo Jet in Gold & Green liveries Spaniards did such a superb job in organising the congress deliberations and evening entertainment programmes that Mexico City stood no chance and Madrid was declared as the UNWTO Headquarter. The Assembly elected Mr Roberto Lonati as its First Secretary General and decided to celebrate 27th September as the “World Tourism Day”. The Statutes of UNWTO were adopted on this day in 1970, which is considered to be the milestone in global tourism. No wonder Spain was so keen to have UNWTO Headquarter in Madrid because its economy virtually depended upon tourism. All countries, including Pakistan, with shattered economies should bear in mind that Tourism is the only Quick-Fix industry in the world. In 1939, General Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, who inherited a civil war torn economy, realized the importance of Tourism and went all out to promote this industry. In Pakistan, unfortunately our thick-headed leaders had the wrong notion that tourism was nothing but women, dining and vining. Spain received staggering figure of 35 Million tourists per year and that number was equal to their entire population. They neither begged IMF or the World Bank but focused on tourism to earn foreign exchange and provide jobs to their people. The Government involved Tourism technocrats and encouraged public/private partnership for this phenomenal success. Furthermore a lot of emphasis was given to human resource development and this is where I involved myself in getting detailed input from tourism training institutes, hospitality sector and the tour operators. The professional guidance from Spain and later on during my stay in Egypt greatly helped me to establish my tourism company Indus Guides and the Ethnic Tourist Resort, Cholis-Thani. In PIA office, we had staff from Spain, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. This combination turned out to be commercially very successful for PIA. We made inter-line deals with Latin American airlines to carry their passengers on our flights from Paris, Frankfurt and Rome to the Middle East. Every year “World Tourism Day” is celebrated in the world including Pakistan. We need to do a lot more than yearly celebration of the day. We should work hard to unfold the tourism secrets of Pakistan: “The Best Kept Secret of Asia” The Philippines had been a colony of Spain and as such there was a lot of ethnic movement between Manila and Madrid. PIA got the lions share out of this traffic because our “Pearl Route” flight to Tokyo operated via Manila. China was just opening up for tourism and PIA took the lead by operating “Silk Route” to Tokyo via Beijing. These by-weekly flights really opened China, for tourism, to Europe. PIA was given a quota of 2,000 transit visas, to passengers travelling on the “Silk Route”. It was a great advantage for PIA but Madrid being an offline-office was not given any share out of that quota. The Pakistan Embassy helped me in obtaining 300 visas from the Chinese Embassy in Madrid. PIA’s Silk Route flight from Karachi to Tokyo made a night stop in Beijing. Delegation from Pakistan at the W.T.O. is formed by Mr Roedad Khan , Mr Arbab Mukhtar Ahmad, Ms Sherin Safdar, and Mr Akhtar Mummunka We took full advantage of this night-stop and offered our passengers hotel accommodation, city tour and a Beijing-Duck dinner in the same airfare. Madrid office became self-sufficient within six months and is the only office out of the eight off-line offices opened in 1974 that is operational to date. I was barely few months in Madrid when I was informed by the Head Office that the Chairman, Air Marshal Nur Khan was to visit Spain in two weeks time. My regional Director, Mr Aslam Khan and I did a marathon tour of Cordova, Granada, Seville, Barcelona and Toledo the likely places Air Marshal could visit in Spain apart from Madrid. As per protocol, I informed Air Marshal Rahim Khan regarding Chairman’s visit to Spain. By the way Air Marshal Rahim Khan was the Chief of Air Staff during 1971 War. A few days before the arrival of the Chairman, I received two very disturbing instructions from the Head Office: I was forbidden to give any further information to Pakistan Embassy about Chairman’s visit. Statues of Don Quixote & Sancho Panza in Plaza de Espana. I was to fly immediately to Palma de Mallorca to receive and escort Chairman’s family. You can imagine my plight being caught in cross fire between two Air Marshals and escorting Begum Nur Khan known for her short temper. In Palma de Mallorca, the first instruction that I received from Begum Sahiba, after check-in was to get her daughter’s broken suite case repaired. Getting a suite case repaired in Pakistan was not a big deal but not so in a Spanish Island. Communication was a major problem because I had not learned Spanish language by then and very few Spaniards spoke English. So how do I get a suite case repaired within one hour? The front office manager at the hotel helped me resolve the problem. He told me that repairing such a broken suite case will cost almost same as buying a new one. So I bought a similar suite case from the market and told Begum Sahiba that I had made a very good deal. By just paying 3 Dollars extra I have got a new suite case in exchange for the broken one. Locero Tena and Nahid Siddiqui performing Flamenco & Kathak She willingly paid me 3 Dollars and appreciated my initiative. The remaining time in Mallorca went peaceful but trouble was brewing in Pakistan Embassy Madrid. Nur Khan was booked at Hotel Villa Magna, on Paseo de la Castellana, a five star property barely a block away from Pakistan Embassy. The air marshal had a busy schedule starting with a working lunch with President of Iberia. During the lavish lunch Iberia made a presentation about its new project “Puente Aereo” or Air Bridge between Madrid and Barcelona. This sector has the heaviest traffic in Europe with over seventy flights per day and as such the concept was ideal for frequent traveler businessmen. No need to book the flight because there was a flight available after every half an hour. PIA also made a presentation about induction of wide body aircrafts 747 Jumbo Jets purchased from TAP, the Portuguese Air Lines. Legendry Captain Abdullah Baig, who now worked at London Heathrow, gave an impressive presentation on calligraphic logo in Urdu and Gold and Green liveries introduced by PIA. Iberia President was very pleased to meet captain Abdullah Beg who had created world record, in 1962, by flying a Boeing 720-B from London to Karachi in shortest time ( 6 hours, 45 minutes and 33 seconds) The President and the Chairman addressed a joint press conference which had massive coverage in the Spanish media. While the press coverage pleased Nur Khan but Air Marshal Rahim Khan was fuming with fire and I could feel the heat. On the last night, Nur Khan invited his entourage for dinner and flamenco show. China was just opening up for tourism and PIA took the lead by operating “Silk Route” to Tokyo via Beijing. These by-weekly flights really opened China, for tourism, to Europe Chairman PIA believed in the best so it had to be the best. I booked a prime table at Corral de la Moreria, the most famous club in Madrid for Tableau Flamenco. Ballerina Locero Tena and Nahid Siddiqui, both great dancers, got to know and respect each other during PIA’s dance troupe’s visit to Spain. Because of my friendship with Nahid Siddiqui, Ms Tena offered special protocol to our Chairman, at the club. Dressed in a beautiful sari, she personally received te air marshal and his family and escorted them to the table. Captain Abdullah Beg creates world record Flower bouquets were presented to his wife and daughter and then she seated herself on our table. She was a charmer who enchanted everyone with her smiles. Her explanation about the art of Flamenco was very rewarding and informative. Dinner was very elaborate, particularly carne asada (roast lamb) the specialty of the club. At the end of the dinner came a gift box with engraving, “specially rolled for Nur Khan” The box contained his favorite Havana cigars. Her one hour performance was simply superb but her master stroke came right at the end of the show when she requested the air marshal to come on stage. I really did not know what to expect. Austrian ambassador to Spain was at the club to present her an award on behalf of his Government. She very smartly managed to jointly receive the award from Air Marshal Nur Khan and the Austrian ambassador Published in Daily Times, September 27th 2018.